It took less than a minute for the game to start slipping away from the Giants Sunday in Atlanta.
On the second snap, Eli Manning's pass for Hakeem Nicks was intercepted by cornerback Asante Samuel, a longtime Giants nemesis. Four plays later, Michael Turner scored on a one-yard run, the first stone in what became a 34-0 avalanche.
The sequence illustrates why Tom Coughlin is obsessive about turnovers. He is forever discussing how throwing an interception or losing a fumble can cripple his team's chances to win a game.
The numbers prove him correct. In Atlanta, the Giants committed three turnovers (two picks and fumble) and did not have a takeaway, a minus-three differential that surely soured the coach's stomach.
This season, the Giants are 1-3 when their turnover differential is negative, 7-2 when it is positive (and 0-1 when it is even). In nine seasons in his current position, the Giants are 53-11 (.828) with a positive differential and 12-39 (.235) when they have more turnovers than takeaways (17-10 when it is even). In his head coaching career, he is 99-26 (.792) when the differential is in his team's favor, 18-75 (.194) when it is negative. So Coughlin could be forgiven if he had a sinking feeling when Manning was picked off just 57 seconds into the game.
Despite the negative-three in the Georgia Dome, the Giants' turnover differential this season is plus-13. That is tied for second in the NFC, tied for fourth in the NFL and is the best figure of Coughlin's 17 seasons as an NFL head coach. The 1999 and 2002 Jacksonville Jaguars and the 2005 Giants were all plus-12.
The Giants' overall turnover differential under Coughlin is plus-26. The Jaguars were plus-34 in his eight seasons as Jacksonville's head coach. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Coughlin's plus-60 turnover differential places him third among active coaches, behind New England's Bill Belichick (plus-123) and Green Bay's Mike McCarthy (plus-75). Kansas City's Romeo Crennel is last at minus-40.
Coughlin's teams have committed 429 turnovers in 270 games, an average of 1.59 a game. That places Coughlin 13th among all coaches since 1970 and seventh among active coaches. Atlanta's Mike Smith and Baltimore's John Harbaugh – ironically, the head coach the Giants just faced and the one they meet this week – are tied for first at 1.31.
*The defeat in Atlanta was the 12th time the Giants were shutout in a regular-season game since the 1970 merger. That places them 22nd in the NFL over that span. Tampa Bay has been shutout a league-high 29 times in those 43 seasons – and the Buccaneers didn't begin play until 1976.
Since 1990, the Giants have been on the wrong end of five shutouts, which is 18th in the league. Cleveland – which didn't field a team from 1996-98 – is first with 16.
In the last 10 seasons, there has been an average of 7.4 shutouts per season in the NFL. There were three shutouts on Sunday alone.
*Atlanta's Matt Ryan completed 23 of 28 passes on Sunday, an 81.2 percentage that was the highest by a quarterback against the Giants (minimum 15 attempts) since Sept. 25, 2005, when Drew Brees – then with San Diego – hit 19 of 22 passes (86.4 percent).
*The Falcons converted nine of 13 third-down opportunities, a 69 percent success rate that was the highest by a Giants opponent since Cleveland converted nine of 13 attempts on Oct. 13, 2008.
*Although it seems Samuel has tormented the Giants for a while, he is not the top interceptor of Manning's passes. That honor goes to DeAngelo Hall, currently with the Redskins, who has five interceptions of Manning passes. Samuel has picked off Manning four times, tying him with Darren Sharper and Terence Newman for second.
*Kirk Cousins started at quarterback for Washington on Sunday in Cleveland. He was the ninth quarterback for the Redskins, the 24th in the NFC East and the 143rd in the NFL since Manning first started for the Giants on Nov. 21, 2004.
*The Giants are now 8-16 in games in games started by Manning in which he does not throw a touchdown pass.
*The Giants have lost three consecutive road games for the first time since Oct. 18- Nov. 26, 2009, when they lost in New Orleans, Philadelphia and Denver.
*Coughlin's regular-season record with the Giants is 82-60: 41-30 at home and 41-30 on the road.
*David Wilson returned three kickoffs for 66 yards Sunday. That increased the rookie's season total to 51 returns for 1,387 yards. That moved him past Ron Dixon (1,364) and into ninth place on the Giants' career list – after 14 games.
*The shutout cost Lawrence Tynes the lead in the NFL scoring race. Tynes has scored 137 points and is now in second place, one behind New England's Stephen Gostkowski. Tynes still leads the league with 33 field goals, two more than Atlanta's Matt Bryant.